Colour & comfort
Every second year, over 3000 brands gather for Maison et Objet – the home and objects fair in Paris. It’s an essential week for interior designers that captures the spirit of Europe, with cool cross-continent collabs and exciting new designers.
It’s not just furniture, but textiles, lighting and homewares too. You’ll see big names like Tom Dixon and Thonet, as well as tiny studios you’ve never heard of.
This year, certain trends and designers stood out from the pack. French designer, Pierre Charpin, was awarded for his Slice Chair for Ligne Rosset, while Sebastian Herkner was celebrated for his innovative collabs with ClassiCon and German manufacturer Ames.
There was a true freshness and decorative spirit to this year’s exhibits. An exotic, colourful and ultra green theme pervaded the week’s events. We saw a lovely return to elegant nostalgia and, of course, those big amorphous, lumpy, plumpy chairs – you just want to sink into at the end of a hard day.
To chat about the broad themes, we caught up with a rising star designer from Germany. Sebastian Herkner collaborates extensively with the best Italian and German brands (like Moroso and ClassiCon) and he had several new pieces on show at the Fair.
Sebastian studied at Offenbach University of Art and Design and also interned at Stella McCartney while he was a student. He makes products that share a tasteful and rigorous simplicity. All his designs show a strong focus on materials and textures, while creatively exploring the connection between the two. Lucky for us, Sebastian took time out of his busy schedule to chat about the major themes he saw at Maison et Objet this year. He pointed out that many trends were driven by social change.
This year, certain eras like the 1920s, 30s and 60s could be seen in very elegant designs that put a modern twist on fine line sofas, velvet and vintage style upholstery. Staged on their own strength, decorative pieces were shifted away from walls, to present a very sculptural form.
New sofas designs like the Targa Sofa from Vienna’s powerhouse Thonet, promoted under the diffusion brand Gebrüeder Thonet was a great example, as was the canapé hall stand and seat from French group Petite Friture. Both of these sofas looked way too good to sit down on!
The advent of decorative colour in 2017, can also, not be over stated. “Colour gives a character and a personality to furniture or an object,” says Sebastian, a self-confessed lover of exotic hues.
“For me a product is only complete with the right colour and material composition. I tend to work very instinctively here. In my travels, I discover colours and moods, which I later use, when defining the finish and mood of a piece,” he says.
This could be seen vividly in his Bell Table unveiled for ClassiCon (pictured below in the blue room). “Materials like copper or brass also play their part, because they have their own colours, but on the other hand, we choose to add colour to the final design to give it personality.”
Handmade and craft-based products really had some good airtime this year.
“I like working with craftsmen very much because it is always an interesting exchange that takes place. The direct collaboration and the opportunity to develop something new together, is exciting for me,” says Sebastian, referencing his recent trip to Santa Marta, Columbia where to developed an outdoor range for Ames using local techniques.
“With the Bell Table, as well as the Caribe collection, the craft is very much in the foreground. Craft has its own quality and value, which people respond to,” he says. “I think these days people want real materials such as wood, glass, wool and so on. They need it.”
Another stand out designer from this year’s fair was British hardwood designer Sebastian Cox. Cox’s coppiced dressers, benches and chairs all showed a very pared back style. The use of ash and chestnut gave each piece an understated flair. And far from being colour or personality driven, Sebastian Cox’s coppiced range really kept it simple, with classic designs that possessed a raw livability.
In this range, Cox harnessed sustainable crops of coppiced chestnut, well-managed ash and the ancient skill of cleaving – the controlled splitting of wood along its grain. Designed for Benchmark a brand started by Terence Conran and Sean Sutcliffe Cox combined these unique timbers with contemporary furniture making techniques to create a collection with a simple and textural aesthetic.
This Coppiced collection sits at the nexus where traditional meets modern; honestly showing how the tree grew, how the pieces are constructed and how the hands of the craftsman made them.
Greening the room
Green was everywhere this year at Maison et Objet. It was used as a background colour in soft sage and was also found in real objects. Ercol, the British manufacturer, introduced a new forest green chair to their range, while many stands like Cinna had live plants as part of their design. Sebastian Herkner says this is yet another response to our tech filled days.
“People want to feel comfortable. Today in the hectic world of work, a pleasant and comfortable home is becoming increasingly important to us. We need to fill up a place with good energy, in order to relax,” he says.
“Greenery and green plants really play a role in creating a green oasis in the interiors of the home and the garden now.”
The decompressing effects of personality and humour also turned up in textiles this year. Flamingos, parrots, feathers and palm fronds were never far from view. There was a definite burst of inspiration from tropical Africa in the form of animal and bird themed fabrics, wallpapers and ceramics.
The street crafts and innovation of African’s many nations could also be felt in the reuse and recycle culture that’s creeping into interiors. From Morocco we also saw the influence of boucherouite style rugs and desert inspired hues in heavy pottery, wicker and raw edged finishes.
Taking things one step further, Africa turned up even more graphically in the highly stylised works of artist Elena Salmistraro. Elena is a hip, young illustrator who teamed up with Bosa this year to present a collection of fine ceramic vases riding the line between art and design. Her ‘Primates’ collection created a stir when it explored the similarities between man and ape.
“Observations are the key to a new design evolving,” says Sebastian.
“We change our conduct and behaviour steadily, through new technical achievements and the advent of technology,” but he says of strong pull of technology is now changing what we desire from our home interiors.
It seems while technology certainly is evolving toward the future, our own tastes are devolving and regressing. The strong lure of tropical grandeur, vibrant colours, soft cloud like couches and raw inspired rooms are all riffing off Mother Nature perhaps subconsciously helping to address our need to shelter in the plush and honest comfort of nature.